Sunday, November 9, 2008

Negotiation replacing leadership

When I was at my old school and raised that I thought that some issue was unfair, I was told to negotiate my way out of it with other teachers. I was interested in this concept as in the workforce, if you were told to do something it wasn't a case for negotiation, you just did the job. You relied on the person in management knowing what they were doing and just did the job.

In teaching it's a bit like a flea market. What you are told to do is the first offer. Then you say what you would like to do. Then you find someone who wants what you have been offered and perhaps do a deal to make it happen. A lot of back scratching and deal making commonly hides an old boys network where everyone is looked after with a bit of a wink.

Where this started I have no idea, but it doesn't make it easy for those that genuinely want to make things happen. For someone to lead, others must be inspired or at least willing to follow. Negotiation just slows things down. The person leading needs to know what they are doing and those confident have to follow and preferably want to follow and those dragging their feet or passively resisting have to know there are consequences for such action.

Otherwise, where is the management? Where is the leadership?

To get around convoluted management styles I look for projects that can be managed by only those with a particular skill base and try to make it happen. Design a course of work, have before school classes, assist with after school tutoring, examine calculator usage, run a summer school, realign student groups, create my blog, assist with student events, organise resources, design reporting and assessment schemas. Ideas like this don't need committees and can be a genuine contribution to school results.

The bane of leadership is the committee. A committee is a way of distributing work to many that meet infrequently, rarely get anything done and no-one is to blame if everything fails. If someone does get something done it is usually because the group is overwhelmed by a dominant personality who does all the work (or delegates effectively with the fear of authority) and unfairly has to share the credit because some plod thinks they contributed an idea to the process.

When I'm on a committee, I rely on the principle, don't suggest an idea unless you are willing to do it. And if you suggest something be aware that unless someone else says they can do it better or the group thinks it is a negative idea, you will be doing it. If you don't contribute, you will be removed from the committee. Easy.. instant effective committees. I have never survived long as chairman and even more rarely get asked onto a committee. Which suits me fine :-)

The idea that a participant on a committee is there to get support for senior teacher status rather than a genuine interest in the committee makes a mockery of the process. Jumping through hoops is not the path to progress. Just poorly crafted committees.

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